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Volume 9

Tall Tales - January 2012


Noorulain Noor

Written by
Noorulain Noor

Noorulain is a member of the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley and a two time Pushcart Prize nominee. Raised in Lahore, Pakistan, she now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her poetry explores themes of identity, multiculturalism, and the immigrant experience. Noorulain has formerly worked as the Associate Editor and the Lead Poetry Editor of Papercuts magazine.


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Empty Shells


They sit in callous circles,
immersed in embellished comparisons:
varieties of lawn, imported
China silk, old-fashioned
Victorian lace doilies.

Like in Jane Eyre? I, too,
feign an interest in frivolity.

What’s that?
A collective response.

There is an animal cry in the living room –
the husbands, playing video games,
eating chicken legs
and flank steak
smothered in butter and barbecue sauce
with lightly oiled sourdough on the side.

They will never run on a green field
with their growing paunches
and thinning hairlines.

My daughter kicks inside my belly,
at her mother’s impotence –
at the deep wretchedness
that lurks beneath each polite remark.

I am planning to spend my zakaat fund on
the new Rahat Fateh Ali Khan concert;
it’s for a good cause, you know

I hear fat sputtering and sizzling
as the cook fries kebabs
while they sprinkle mortality, starvation
into the conversation,
like coconut garnish on chocolate cupcakes
laid on the oak dining table
in concentric rings of perfection.
They touch upon death,
by malaria, typhoid, hep C
as if sliding a finger across
ivory keys of the majestic piano in its corner –
death by simply being too poor –
like they could clean it with their antibacterial wipes,
wipe it from the faces of
dead babies –
by asking the maid to use a stronger bleach spray this time.

I close my eyes.

My daughter kicks me again.

And now –
there are kebabs on the floor,
I pound them to little pieces,
break all the fine china on the counters
with the hot frying pan flying every which way –

and reach for the knives.

My eyes are still closed,
my daughter probably sleeping.



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